Following the lead of last year’s New Girl, a bunch of new network pilots have either been aired early or have been put up on Hulu for advance viewing. So I’ve decided to write up my impressions of the ones I’ve watched. Since I’m in a weird mood, I’m going to have a little fun with this and evaluate their potential to devolve into absolute trainwrecks.
Go On [NBC]
What it’s about: After the death of his wife, a sportscaster named Ryan (played by Matthew Perry) is forced to attend a support group. Hilarity ensues, because there’s nothing funnier than tragedy!
Impressions: This one’s not bad. Matthew Perry is basically playing Chandler here, but he’s good at it. At times, it veers too far into saccharine territory, which is something that the show should really tone down. That being said, it’s nice to watch a show that’s sincere instead of steeped in thirty layers of irony. This looks kind of like Community season 1, before that show became a self-indulgent mess, which gives me high hopes.
Potential for greatness: Moderate. It’s got a solid cast, and the premise is unique. This could be an interesting show.
Trainwreck potential: Moderate. The pilot hints at the world’s ickiest will-they-won’t-they relationship between Ryan and the group’s leader, Lauren (played by Laura Benanti). If not handled with care, pursuing that angle could spell the show’s doom.
The Mindy Project [Fox]
What it’s about: Fox executive: “Mindy Kaling is popular. Quick! Give her a show!” Basically, Mindy Kaling plays an OB/GYN who is unlucky in love and thinks her life is a romcom. The premise is as thin as it sounds.
Impressions: I’ve never been a huge fan of Mindy Kaling, probably because I’ve never liked The Office. But this was surprisingly not awful. It was even good for at least half of its duration. As annoying as Kelly Kapoor can be, Mindy Kaling is a skilled comic actress, and she knows how to make a mediocre joke funny with her delivery. That being said, the character Kaling is playing here is basically Kelly in gynecologist form, so she’s still quite irritating at times.
Potential for greatness: Low. Sometimes a thin premise gives a show freedom to do what it wants to do. Other times, a thin premise is just a thin premise.
Trainwreck potential: High. The Mindy Project will have to be careful to keep Kaling’s character from going too far into annoying territory. If the show gets there, I can imagine it being one of the worst comedies on television.
Ben and Kate [Fox]
What it’s about: Ben (Nat Faxon) is a dreamer. Kate (Dakota Johnson) is not. They’re siblings. Hilarity ensues.
Impressions: Out of the four pilots I’ve seen, this one is the best. It’s funny, it’s charming, and it knows exactly what it wants to be right out of the gate. This one’s a winner, at least as far as so-so comedy pilots go.
Potential for greatness: Low. As solid as the pilot is, Johnson just isn’t a good actress. I don’t think the show will ever rise above that. It might be able to work around that limitation, though.
Trainwreck potential: Low. There’s not much that can go horribly awry here. There’s nothing wrong with a solid, low-key sitcom, which is what I think this will be.
What it’s about: One day, electricity just stops working. Fifteen years later, the world has devolved into a collection of villages and loosely-governed city-states. There are swords and crossbows for some reason.
Impressions: Its implausibility notwithstanding, I really like the premise of this show. It provides the opportunity to raise a lot of questions about our dependence on energy and technology, and I’m a sucker for stories where low-tech and hi-tech clash. The performances are solid, the camera work is excellent, and the action is exciting. The first and last ten minutes were some compelling, emotional television. But here’s the problem: what happened in the middle was dull, and I can imagine that same structure being repeated in every episode – an exciting start and finish with a boring middle – in order to stretch the story out for a season or longer.
Potential for greatness: Moderate. On the bright side, Revolution has a pretty large world and a long roster of characters to draw from. It shouldn’t be too hard for the show to come up with some interesting subplots to fill the dead space.
Trainwreck potential: Moderate. Most network sci-fi is awful. I wouldn’t be surprised if Revolution went the same way as Terra Nova or The Event.
This isn’t a particularly strong set of new shows, but on the bright side, none of them are completely awful. So yay! I guess…